Recently, I️ was listening to a podcast episode from This American Life on making new friends as an adult. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time because I’m currently low on new friends, so I really connected with what they were talking about. They were discussing how making new adult friendships is a lot like dating, and it was so relevant and striking to me that I️ wanted to share my thoughts as well. I’ll link the podcast, so you can listen for yourself. By the way, if you don’t listen to podcasts, you really should. There’s literally something for everybody, and I️ can’t survive the car ride to work without them. Full Episode- The Perils of Intimacy | Segment- “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”
So let’s talk about why this even matters to me at the moment, besides the fact that everybody needs friends. I’ve been married and living in a new town for about two and a half years, and I️ can count the number of friends I’ve made on one hand. I️ don’t think I️ even need all the fingers. Don’t get me wrong, since moving to where I️ live now I️ have met so many great people. There are a lot that I️ consider to be friends, but there aren’t many that I’ve been able to make that weirdly hard transition from I️ really like you to let’s actually hangout in our free time. The kind of friends I️’m talking about here are real, not just because of work, hang out on the weekend, talk about our problems-friends. The kind of friends that you make in high school and college…easily by the way.
Weirdly, now that I’m “grown” I️ sort of forgot how to make a friend. I️ think it comes so easily when we’re in school that it never occurs to us that one day we’ll have to do it differently. When you’re in high school and college, you’re surrounded by new people who are either all new or have all been there for years, so you have a ready made pool of options. No real work required. So, what do I do now that I️ don’t really now how to put in the work?
Your high school friendships just sort of naturally happen. You spend every day together, so circumstance allows you to put in the time friendships require. In college, everybody is looking for friends, so there’s not really any work that you have to put into finding your people. But what happens when you grow up and move to a town where you don’t know anybody? People are already established, of varying ages, and, especially in a small town, already have lifetime friends. No one needs new friends but you. Or, at least, no one is actively looking for new friends but you.
Why is it so hard to make new friends?
Back to the podcast for a second, the thing that struck me in the episode was how exactly right they were about the awkwardness of “friend dating”. Think about it. You’re always looking for potential friends everywhere you go– the grocery store, the gym, the bank, wherever. You see someone who looks like your type of friend, and you think I️ bet she/he’s cool. Ok, great. Now, tell me what the heck you do from there? I️ can tell you, probably nothing because hello what an awkward conversation that would be. “Hi, I️ noticed that you look like my type of friend. Would you be interested in texting and hanging out on a regular basis?” Cringe.
So, what do I️ do?
I’d like to pretend like I️ have all the answers here, but I’ve already told you the unimpressive numbers on my new friend list. However, I️ do think there are things we can do to make this an easier process for us. Consider trying these things and trying them along with me. I️ know that I️ have to put some of these into practice because all I’ve been doing is complaining about not having many new friends. I️ guess I️ expected the friend fairy to rain awesome people out of the sky like she used to, but, alas, the witch is no where to be found.
Join a Club
Every town, no matter how small, has some form of club or volunteer organization you can get involved with. I️ think the number one trick to getting friends is surrounding yourself with people, right? So, it has to be all about finding those people. For me, this feels weirdly out of my comfort zone. In high school and college, I️ was in just about every club and organization available. Why is it so different as an adult? Somehow, the fear of acceptance, for me anyway, gets worse rather than better. I’m a much more self-assured confident person than my high school or college self, but I’m more hesitant of how other adults might perceive me. What if you join a club and they think you’re a nutcase, and now you have to raise your children in a town where everyone thinks you’re a nutcase forever? Yikes.
Never fear, I️ don’t really think that would be the case. At least I️ hope not. Putting yourself out there despite the fear has to reap positive consequences, so I think it’s worth a shot.
Join a Gym
Working out can be a very solitary activity. Sometimes, I️ really like that it’s that way. However, it is nice to have a workout partner or to be part of a class. Again, by joining a gym you’re surrounding yourself with people. I mean the more people you see the higher your chances are, right? There will be a few people who go at the same time as you every day and eventually you can work up the nerve to start that initial conversation with one or all of them. In my experience, a lot of women like having work out partners, so people are open to sharing ideas, workout routines, and planning workouts together. Most people want to have an accountability partner for the gym, and that’s a wide open door for a beautiful friendship.
Seek Out Friends Through Connections
You know how when you’re dating you’re kind of a part time stalker? Don’t pretend like you don’t. You look up your love interest on social media, plus check out their friends, who they interact with, who they’re tagged with, etc. Mild stalker behavior, but socially acceptable. It’s the same principle with friends. You might actually need to be a bit stalkerish…in a non-threatening, non-creepy way of course. Smh.
You’re going to meet great people wherever you are, and one of these people might turn into a true friend. Great! That’s friend list plus one. Assuming your new friend is not also a new girl in town, they’re going to have a list of friends you can stalk and steal from! Side note: I️ don’t make a habit of encouraging such wacky behavior, but all’s fair in love and friendship. Also side note: by stalk I️ mean casually look through social media profiles to find people with like interests who are connected to your friend. Once you start doing this, you’re building a circle. Everyone knows friends come better in circles.
Get Over Yourself
This is my favorite one, and the one I️ need to work on the most. Making new friends is hard, but it really would be so easy if I️ could just chill out. If I could stop focusing on myself so much, I️ might actually find time to get to know someone. So many times what stops me from reaching out is a weird fear that no one else wants a friend but me. I️ tend to think that everybody already has their people, and I’m somehow intruding by pursuing a potential friendship. But, I’m sure no one would find it intrusive to initiate a genuine friendship. They will, however, find you to be an oddball if you just start running up to the random people on the street and asking them out on a friend date. I️ haven’t resorted to that yet, but you never know. I may eventually get desperate.
I can’t help but wonder, in a world where everyone has 500+ facebook friends, how did it get so hard to make real ones? Oh yeah, maybe because we have 500 virtual ones. It’s suddenly normal to be internet friends without having a real life relationship. The intimacy of a face to face relationship is gone. And when we don’t know anyone to befriend on social media, we have to establish that intimacy through initiating personal contact. See why it’s so hard?
By the way, I️ still have wonderful relationships with my high school and college friends. I️ love them dearly, and I️ see them fairly often. But, they just don’t live in my new town, and everybody needs a few lunch buddies.
Let me know in the comments how you’ve found new friends, and help me out! Also, check out my previous blog posts on marriage and beauty. And please like this post and share on social media if you’re feeling friendly!